Tester cosponsors security measure after getting northern border commitment

Senate approves measure setting aside $3 billion for emergency border security

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The U.S. Senate today approved an amendment that pumps $3 billion into securing America's borders, after Senator Jon Tester received a commitment that the money will be used for both the southern and northern borders.

Tester, a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, was the only Democrat to sign on as a cosponsor to the amendment authored by Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.  The amendment overwhelmingly cleared the Senate this morning with a vote of 95-1.

Before the vote Tester asked Graham to clarify whether the money in the amendment could be used for personnel and equipment to protect the nation's northern border in addition to the border with Mexico.  Graham answered yes.

"I know (Senator Tester) has been insistent that these funds be allocated to all our border needs, including our northern border," Graham said on the Senate floor.  "They will be and I appreciate his efforts to make that a reality."

Tester then asked that he be added as a cosponsor to the amendment, which improves emergency funding for operational security along both U.S. borders.  The $3 billion will be used to:

  • Hire,     train and deploy Customs and Border Protection and Border Patrol officers     at authorized levels (currently the northern border is nearly 2,200 agents     short of authorized levels).
  • Invest     in new technology such as unmanned aerial vehicles and remote sensors to     improve border security.
  • Increase     the number of detention beds available to the Department of Homeland     Security to house illegal aliens.

"Congress won't overlook security on the northern border on my watch," Tester said.  "This is an important investment for stronger security along both borders.  And this funding will go a long way in Montana, where we're keeping an eye on 545 miles of the northern border."

President Bush has already signed into law legislation by Tester that requires the Department of Homeland Security to report to Congress on the needs and vulnerabilities of the northern border.  Tester's law also requires the Government Accountability Office to recommend ways of improving northern border security.

The measure Tester cosponsored today is an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill.